As the 2005 GMAC Bowl drew closer, a Michigan gambler assured other bettors that University of Toledo football player Harvey "Scooter" McDougle offered bribes to teammates so the point spread would be covered, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Mr. McDougle, 22, who was charged Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit with conspiring with others in a points-shaving scheme, sat out the game because of injuries.
His teammates defeated Texas-El Paso 45-13 in the Dec. 21, 2005, bowl game in Mobile, Ala.
The UT athletic department announced yesterday that Mr. McDougle, a running back, was suspended from the football team.
Other than Mr. McDougle, no other UT players were identified in the complaint, so it's unclear how many players were involved in the scheme or whether squads at other schools are being investigated.
Mr. McDougle, dressed in a gray heavy cotton Rockets sweatshirt and pants and wearing black-and-white jogging shoes, made a brief appearance yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Virginia Morgan in Detroit. She advised him of the charges, set a preliminary examination for April 20, and released him on a $10,000 unsecured bond.
She warned Mr. McDougle that anything he said about the case - including to FBI agents, who arrested him yesterday and took him to Detroit - could be used against him.
Deputy Federal Defender James Gerometta, Mr. McDougle's temporary court-appointed lawyer, declined to comment on the case.
Mr. McDougle is charged with conspiring to bribe to affect the outcome of a sporting event, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mr. McDougle could not be reached for comment last night.
The complaint said Mr. McDougle, a Michigan man identified in court documents only as "Gary," and others bribed Toledo athletes to influence the final scores of specific games so "Gary" and the others could place winning bets with illegal sports bookmakers.
There was no indication in the complaint that players purposely lost any games, but that they controlled the final scores to enable "Gary" to win his bets against the point spread.
One player, who wasn't identified, was offered $10,000 to sit out a football game, the complaint said.
The scheme is believed to have begun in fall 2003, according to an affidavit written by FBI Agent Brian Max.
It said the FBI intercepted calls to and from "Gary's" home from November, 2005, to December, 2006, in hopes of finding out the extent of his illegal gambling and sports bribery operations and who was involved.
During one eavesdropping event, agents learned that "Gary" and others were bribing Toledo players.
With profits from bets placed with illegal sports bookmakers, the man rewarded the athletes with money and "other things of value," the affidavit states.
Mr. McDougle is accused of asking the Michigan man to place a $2,000 bet on the GMAC Bowl.
UT Athletic Director Mike O'Brien, reached in Atlanta where he is attending the NCAA basketball tournament's Final Four, said his superiors have prohibited him from commenting on the situation.
Tom Amstutz, UT's head football coach, could not be reached for comment. Stan Joplin, UT's head basketball coach, would not comment.
Tobin J. Klinger, senior director of university communications, at the conclusion of a spring football practice scrimmage, said, "The University of Toledo has been informed of a federal criminal complaint filed against Harvey 'Scooter' McDougle. We will evaluate the allegations in the complaint and will fully comply with federal authorities in their investigation."
FBI agents said "Gary," the Michigan man, took UT athletes to dinner and financed their gambling at Detroit casinos after striking up a friendship with a football player at a Toledo cellular phone store.
On Dec. 2, 2005, FBI agents spotted "Gary" meeting with Mr. McDougle and other Toledo players at a Detroit restaurant before heading to the VIP area of the Greektown Casino, the document said.
Mr. McDougle, then a resident of the 2900 block of Avondale Avenue, told FBI agents in December that he had shared information about the team with "Gary," who he knew gambled often on UT football and basketball games.
According to the affidavit, Mr. McDougle admitted taking gifts of "cash, a car, a phone, and other things of value'' and putting the man in contact with other athletes in return for the inside information.
However, Mr. McDougle denied to the FBI agents in the interview that the gratuities influenced the way he played to change the outcomes of games.
Mr. McDougle, listed on the 2006 UT football roster as a junior eligibilitywise, was significantly out of shape for spring practice last year and he moved down the depth chart behind younger running backs.
Last season, Mr. McDougle played in just three games and carried the ball only eight times for 49 yards.
The house on Avondale where Mr. McDougle lived appeared vacant yesterday. A neighbor who asked not to be named said Mr. McDougle moved from the house earlier this year.
Antoine Jones, 14, who lives across the street, said he remembers the nice cars parked at the house when his neighbors still lived there: a Mercedes-Benz, a Lexus, and "two sports cars."
While the UT football team held afternoon spring practice inside the Glass Bowl, reporters and news vans gathered outside in a parking lot.
When players started to return to their cars shortly after 6 p.m., university officials asked them not to talk to the media.
Some players said they had heard Mr. McDougle was wanted by the FBI, but they had not yet learned the details of the charge.
Mr. McDougle had his best season in 2004, when the then-6-foot-1, 220 pound running back led the Rockets in rushing with 620 yards and seven touchdowns. He ended the season with consecutive 100-yard rushing games against Northern Illinois and Bowling Green, both Toledo wins, and then had 167 yards on 35 carries in the Rockets' 35-27 win over Miami in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game at Detroit's Ford Field.
Mr. McDougle suffered a knee injury when he was tackled late in that game.
Mr. McDougle had reconstructive surgery on his knee, did not take part in spring football in 2005, and had issues with his weight when he attempted to come back.
He played sparingly on special teams early in the 2005 season, but did not play at running back, and received a medical redshirt from the NCAA, giving him an additional year of eligibility.
He also sat out the 2003 season, his first at UT, because of NCAA academic restrictions.
Mr. McDougle starred in football and basketball at East Cleveland Shaw High School, where he transferred as a junior after starting on the varsity football team at Cleveland St. Joseph as a freshman and a sophomore.
Mr. McDougle previously told The Blade that his father gave him the nickname "Scooter" when he was little because of the way he would scoot around on his knees.
Almost 60 years ago, the Toledo basketball program was involved in a gambling scandal when a New York mobster named Eli Klukofsky was charged with bribing Toledo players Bill Waller, Carlo Muzi, Bob McDonald, and Jack Feeman to throw games.
Mr. Klukofsky suffered a fatal heart attack while awaiting trial. As a result, the charges against all four players were dropped.
Sports columnist Dave Hackenberg and staff writer JC Reindl contributed to this report. Information from the Detroit Free Press also was used in this report.
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